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Oglala Lakota leader seeks dismissal of protest charges

July 3, 2021 GMT

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The leader of an Indigenous-led advocacy organization has gone to court to seek dismissal of charges against him related to a protest during President Donald Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore last July.

NDN Collective President Nick Tilsen claims prosecutorial misconduct and violations of his rights to a speedy trial and free speech. Tilsen was among protesters arrested during Trump’s visit and agreed to participate in a diversion program rather than face time in prison if convicted of charges against him.

Tilsen claims the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office state backed out of the agreement after he spoke to the media about it in March.

In his motions for dismissal, Tilsen claims his remarks to the media were protected by the First Amendment. The documents claim the state’s decision to reinstate Tilsen’s charges were directly connected to his protected speech and were reinstated as punishment for it, the Rapid City Journal reported.


Tilsen’s attorneys also claim the delay in executing the agreement and then reinstating the charges violated Tilsen’s right to a speedy trial and that the new demands effectively force Tilsen into silence on issues he believes in.

“The prosecutor has abused their position of power and privilege to try to silence myself. These are all grounds for dismissal,” Tilsen said Friday outside the Pennington County Courthouse. “Here we are, another lie made to our people by another white man in power. And we’re tired of that.”

Messages left Friday by the Journal for State’s Attorney Mark Vargo were not returned. His office was closed Saturday.